Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cracks and Jack

It's so rare to see custom tile work like this any more, that I grieve to see it drilled into for a pointless railing dividing two shop entrances. The "Colonial" must have been a hotel or apartment building long ago. The crack suggests it could have endured a fairly strong earthquake, and the upper facade, seen in the photo below, shows such evidence as well. When the 1906 quake hit this area, the only fatality happened when a brick hotel collapsed on the proprietor. Residential chimneys fell down all over the area, but the wooden framed houses themselves endured pretty well, being able to flex with the earth. I don't know if the Colonial was around for those events. It seems unlikely with all its brickwork still standing.

Few people realize the epicenter of that shaker was closer to Santa Rosa than San Francisco, and the rupture continued quite strongly up the fault line north. Writer Jack London toured these areas with his wife, Charmian, soon after, and wrote about his observations for Collier's magazine. In her diary (held by the Huntington Library in San Marino), Charmian mentions Jack writing part of "White Fang" while they stayed at a hotel nearer to the railroad depot in Willits.

As Melodee pointed out in the comments, the Colonial name applied to the cinema once operated in part of this building. Thanks Melodee!


Rose said...

I learnt somethng new (and interesting)today!
Thank you Elaine...

Bibi said...

Yes, I hate to see old things defaced, too. Happens everywhere, unfortunately.

Halcyon said...

Colonial is the name of my golf club! It is sad that some silly business has ruined the tile work.

Thanks for all the info on the quake. Very interesting.

Virginia said...

My friend's hot dod stand has the original tilework too. I love how you find such simple yet interesting things for us around Willits!

Petrea said...

Isn't that the truth, Virginia? The simple can lead to such interest, at least when Elaine presents it so well.

Elaine, if/when you come this way the Huntington's the first place we'll go. I don't know if they'll let us see Charmian's diary, but they've got plenty for us to do.

Saretta said...

Love mosaics, and tiles in general. What a pity about the railing, splat in the middle.

Kris said...

It's a great book, White Fang. London is always worth a read.

Ming the Merciless said...

I love old tile work.

And it seems like the only places where old tiles survive (in NYC) are in the bathrooms. A lot of old buildings have HUGE bathrooms so they are left untouched.

USelaine said...

Rose - I'm glad I had a way to share the story with you all.

Bibi - It seems you still have some beautiful 19th century buildings in your part of the world.

Halcyon - This railing may have been installed well before the current businesses leased their spaces. Even the rail seems out of date now.

Virginia - Simple is all I can wrap my head around, so those are the things I spot to photograph. I figure if I give you enough simple posts, they will come together as a complex whole on their own.

P - Back when the earthquake centennial was highlighted, scans of her diaries were online, but I couldn't find them anymore to link to for this. You just have to take my word for the White Fang connection. As for the Huntington, a person could spend a lifetime with their holdings, and never absorb it all! We'll get there again sometime.

Saretta - I love mosaics too! If I were spry enough to take up a building trade, that's what I'd do. You must see some fine ones in Italy.

Kris - I've read he's more famous and widely studied overseas than he is in the US. Something about his contradictory personal characteristics of espousing socialism while living a life of wealth and fame accumulating individualism as a metaphor for the American conundrum. Dunno.

Ming - I love the old, glamorous bathrooms in some of the finer buildings of San Francisco. It adds such elegance.

Thanks for taking the time with this one, everybody. Let's hope this building survives many future shakers.

Melodee, said...

Elaine, I believe the building was once the town movie house. I might be wrong, but I think that's what it was.

I've been loving the photos by the way. It's nice to see our little town through someone else's eyes.

Anonymous said...

Thats great. The kind of thing I look for

USelaine said...

Melodee, thank you! I did a little library research, prompted by your comment, and can confirm what you say! The building was constructed in 1914, so that puts it later than the big shaker, as we suspected. It was also the post office, and Moose Lodge, as well as lodging upstairs. It must be bigger than it looks from outside. Thank you so much for mentioning it. 8^)

PA - I love the odd things when I spot 'em.